It wasn’t until Shari Kirkland and her husband pulled up in front of Michelle’s Headquarters on Culver’s Main Street earlier this month that Shari began to guess at what was in store.
That’s because a van with the “Hello Gorgeous” moniker was parked nearby, and Kirkland had seen a television news report on the organization recently.
“I had a blast,” she says of what followed, “and I wish more (hairdressers) would get involved. I’ve never had a pedicure or manicure before, and nobody’s washed my hair since I was a little kid! So it was good -- everybody was so friendly.”
Kirkland, a former member of the cafeteria staff at Culver Community Schools, was given just six months to live last August in her battle with cancer. She told the Citizen last December she hoped to live to see her son graduate from high school in June, a goal she has now surpassed.
It was Kirkland’s chemo nurse, Linda Douglas, who made the initial arrangements for Kirkland to participate in Hello Gorgeous! of HOPE, Inc. (www.georgeousgals.org ), a nonprofit organization started by South Bend couple Kim and Mike Becker, who had a large hair salon and felt called to convert a recreational vehicle to a mobile day spa, part of a program aimed at pampering women fighting cancer. The vehicle travels to the recipient’s location and helps treat women -- nominated by friends or family -- to having hair and nails done and being outfitted with a new, donated dress, usually followed by a party with family and friends to showcase the “new” woman.
Michelle Allyn, owner of the Culver salon, explains Hello Gorgeous is networking with certified salon affiliates to expand the program to communities outside South Bend. Fellow stylist at Michelle’s Susan Elizondo met Kim Becker back in March and began the process to get on board with the program, which Allyn points out is careful to research the specific illness of nominated women to be sure anything done is no risk to their health. Women who have lost hair from chemo treatments are specially fitted with wigs.
“I just related a lot,” says Allyn. “I had several clients that have had cancer and gone through treatments, or you don’t see them for a year because they have no hair. In this business, they’re your family.”
Elizondo echoes that sentiment. “This is a way to give back to these women who have this terrible disease that ravages your body.”
Allyn said Kirkland came into the salon “dragging,” but “when she finished the facial and moved into the chair, you could see a glow and a smile.”
Michelle’s and the CC Hair Company in Plymouth were certified with the Hello Gorgeous program the same day, which will facilitate events for two clients per month at each business.
“So Kim (Becker) said that’s 24 more women (the program) can reach a year that she couldn’t on her own,” adds Allyn.
When Kirkland arrived at Michelle’s Headquarters, the staff literally rolled out a red carpet for her and presented her with flowers and candy before she was treated to the pedicure, manicure, a facial, and hair styling.
Marilyn Rans from CC Hair Company handled the nails portion of the effort, “so she’s part of our team,” says Allyn.
Recipients get to take home all the products used during the endeavor, which in Kirkland’s case was followed by a surprise “reveal” party at Culver Coffee Company on Lake Shore Drive.
“Dawn (Brockey) at Culver Coffee Company did that for us,” says Elizondo. “The nominating person has to round up all her friends and family to come see her new look at the restaurant...it was really nice when Shari walked in and everybody said, ‘Hello gorgeous!’ Elizabeth’s Gardens is partnering with us to provide flowers; Pam Fisher at Fisher and Company partners with us because the gorgeous gal gets a new outfit.”
For her part, Kirkland says she was “real surprised,” not only at the event itself, but at her husband’s keeping it quiet right up the doorstep of Michelle’s Headquarters. She’s also appreciative that Douglas, her nurse, thought to set it up.
She also didn’t expect to see many of those awaiting her at the Culver Coffee Company. She notes her family has helped make several occurrences special in the past year: last September, she attended a concert in Ohio for her birthday; radio station B100 had a benefit bash for her, as did the Culver Community Schools; and her mother planned an event at her parents’ house in which every family member who could possibly attend did so.
Kirkland says she’s at a standstill with her tumors, which presently are not growing at a fast rate, though “I’ll never be in remission.” Her present status has, however, allowed her to take a break from chemo therapy for the last two months, which is a relief. As a result, she says, “I feel really good.”
Hello Gorgeous no doubt aided in that area a bit.
Meantime, some of the nomination forms available at Michelle’s Headquarters have been taken by customers, and Allyn and Elizondo hope the trend continues.
Towards the end, local volunteers will need to conduct two fundraisers per year. Half of what’s raised goes back into the company to be used to help other salons like Michelle’s, which has been given wigs, candy, beauty products and more towards the next nominee. The other half stays local for use at Michelle’s.
Allyn and Elizondo will be hit the road in coming weeks and months to partner with community organizations, businesses, and individuals to facilitate the project.
The first fundraising event will take place Dec. 9 from 5 to 8 p.m. at Michelle’s (114 N. Main Street). The Great Purse Extravaganza encourages the community to donate lovingly used purses to be re-sold the night of the event. The items may be dropped off at Michelle’s, the Culver Coffee Company, and Elizabeth’s Garden between now and Dec. 2.
The Dec. 9 event will include wine, cheese, and sweet treats “with some pampering surprises planned.”
Questions may directed to 574-842-2662.